Health & Science

Realistic Ideas To Keep the Whole Family Moving In a Small Space

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Experts agree that physical activity is essential to our overall health. It not only improves our quality of life, but supports our mood and helps us handle stress—something we’re all experiencing a little more of these days. With recreation facilities and many outdoor public spaces remaining closed, families are feeling the challenge of how to keep their kids and themselves active, and often while in a limited physical space. 

Just as parents are adapting to a new structure in their lives, they are adopting creative ways to incorporate exercise into their family routines. Looking for ideas for your own life? Check out some suggestions and ideas that can help get the whole family involved.


Think virtually: As parents during the pandemic, we are well on our way to becoming experts in online meetings, video conferencing, and virtual classrooms. Many gyms, trainers, and subscription fitness services are offering free workouts online or through their apps. Have you been curious about trying something new? There’s no better time than now. 

No space? No problem: Our homes have become a combination of school, office, daycare—why not a fitness center? Get your heart rate up by jumping rope, kickboxing, doing jumping jacks, or jogging in place. These high-intensity aerobic exercises give your heart and lungs a good workout and require a minimal amount of space. You can also fit them in a little at a time throughout your day.

No equipment needed: Don’t worry if you don’t have a home gym, many workouts don’t require any equipment other than you! Bodyweight exercises, like planks, squats, lunges, and pushups, can be done anywhere and are easily modified for different fitness levels. Not sure where to start? Shape has some suggestions on bodyweight exercises that can be done from anywhere. 


Younger Kids: Kids get much of their daily aerobic activity through play. You don’t need specialized training to play a game of red-light-green-light, Ring Around the Rosy or Duck Duck Goose. Focus on fun—play games and plan activities that get them moving. Have a dance party, play follow-the-leader, Simon Says, or balloon volleyball! Want to branch out? GoNoodle and Cosmic Kids Yoga are sites that parents in our Facebook group recommend frequently for videos and games that get kids moving.

Older Kids and Teens: Older kids and teens can benefit from the same exercises as adults, but it can be harder to get them motivated. Hip Hop Public Health aims to foster healthy practices in young people through music and dance. Other fitness sites, like Beachbody Kids, have adapted workouts to appeal to teens and older kids, while others such as Fitness Blender have workouts specifically designed for small spaces. If all else fails, they might agree to at least balance on a yoga ball while doing online schoolwork!


Embrace fun: When was the last time you did wheelbarrow races or picked up a hula hoop? Embrace your inner child and set up an indoor obstacle course, and take turns with your kids creating new challenges. Create a mini-golf course in your living room, play musical chairs together, or make a ring toss game from a cardboard tube and paper plates. Moving Creatures has several great ideas for fun, simple games you can play with your kids to get everyone’s heart rate up. 

And don’t rule out activities that were originally intended for groups of adults—for example, this balloon game could be easily adapted for families, with one person in the center bopping a balloon into the air, then calling another family member’s name while getting out of the way so the next person can hit the balloon—see how many hits you can get in before the balloon touches the ground!

We’re game: As parents, we worry about our kid’s amount of screen time. Why not instead turn it into a healthy activity the family can enjoy together? If you have access, many fitness video games like Just Dance or Wii Fit are tailor made for this—but you can also hit up YouTube for free family-friendly exercise routines. Yoga is another activity families can practice together while following along to a video or app—and it has the added benefit of reducing stress levels.

It’s a family affair:  Put music on while cooking dinner and dance with your kids. How about a game of Twister? (You can make a DIY version with a sheet and some paint if you don’t own the game.) Try setting up stations around the house with different challenges, like a simplified version of the circuit training you might be missing from the gym—stop and do jumping jacks, run in place, or do a plank for 30 seconds throughout your space. Want more ideas? The American Heart Association has compiled 25 Ways to Get Kids Moving at Home, with activities the entire family can do together.

Whatever you choose to do, remember—get creative and include the whole family, but most importantly, keep moving!

Liz O'Leary is an artist, designer, freelance writer, blogger, and mother of three. When not juggling all these, you'll find her at the beach where she lives in Isle of Palms, SC.